An Alister MacKenzie course that was designed in 1912, Reddish Vale Golf Club is a very pleasant moorland track laid out on the banks of the River Tame, close to the M60 on the outskirts of Manchester. The river meanders, largely unseen, alongside several of the holes on the layout without ever impinging on play and this body of water adds charm to the setting.
The location is so suited to golf that the master architect had stated in his original site report that, “I was very much impressed with the possibilities of the ground available for the Reddish Vale Golf Club. Taking into consideration the excellence of the turf and the natural surroundings, the course will be an exceptionally accessible one.”
Playing to a par of 69, the course is configured in a somewhat unconventional manner with four of the five par threes on the scorecard played during the front nine. Another quirky, century-old feature that has been retained is the criss-crossing of fairways at holes 16 and 17, a case of routing the holes to best fit the land available.
The toughest hole at Reddish Vale is the long par four 13th, named “Copse,” and it’s considered to be one of the best in the county of Cheshire. Measuring all of 456 yards from the back tees, the slightly left doglegged fairway narrows considerably to a punchbowl green that’s surrounded by trees.
Where to begin with RVGC. Having read the previous reviews and looking for a new course within a short drive, I selected RVGC. It is December and it had rained all week in Manchester so the fact that the course was on 15 full greens was indeed testament to the quality of the turf and construction of the greens. And whilst these reviews should be about the course, they should also cover aspects which can affect your enjoyment whilst playing the course. So in RVBC case, whilst there are some good and well designed holes, the overall feeling is that there are too many holes crammed into what is quite a small parcel of land. This leads to crammed parts of the course (1-5) (7-12) where your enjoyment is spoiled, not because of the individual nature of each hole, but because with golf balls flying everywhere and an almost minute by minute shout of 'fore', this course did not at any point during the round provide respite from what felt at time like being under siege in WW2! The overhead planes coming into Manchester added to this feeling.
Don't get me wrong, it's Winter and post lockdown so the course was busy as, waiting, doubling up on every tee, and I suspect in the Summer months in more normal times, the course will feel a lot quieter and therefore more safe.
The course starts with 5 holes situated on the higher land adjacent to the clubhouse, and lined by a housing estate that wouldn't have been there in 1912 when the course was built. The pick of these holes which have been built over and amongst what looks like quarrying activity is the par 3 4th. Visually it's good on the eye and at 166 yards it asks the right questions, with a quarry hill to the right of the green and a fall away and penal rough to the left. The green itself is large and very flat.
The quarry features in all of the 5 1st holes and the tee off over the chasm on 5 is a pretty sight.
The 6th starts the part of the course which is laid out along the bottom and valley sides of the River Tame. Playing off the winter tees, your tee shot to this 240 yard downhill par 3 criss crosses the 18th. Off the Summer tees, to the left of the 18th, you should be able to avoid hitting any golfers coming up the last!
But it's a nice view across the river and the holes 7-17.
As mentioned earlier the stretch 7-12 is crammed into a piece of land built in tiers up the hillside. The 7th, 11th, 8th, 9th and 10th fairways run up, down and parallel to each other - I would think the space if built today would only accommodate 3 holes in it. This doesn't take away from what is an excellent and long par 5 7th. At 538 yards it played it's full length given no run and cold conditions, along the side of the river.
It's worth pointing out that tree clearance has been prevalent since the reviews from a few years ago and you now get good visibility of the river. In fact some of the small enclaves of trees on the right of the 7th have also been cleared. It has good bunkering and a green that slopes back to front. the greens throughout were in excellent condition and ran fast for this time of year.
The 8th follows up the hill and a blind tee shot, which when you scamper up onto the plateau you are left with an inviting shot up to a green 25 feet above you.
The short uphill par 3 9th, the 4th par 3 of the round almost looked like an afterthought. It plays to the edge of the property, surrounded by fencing and reminded me in all honesty of what I would expect on some of the municipals near where I live. No doubt the high number of par 3's in the 1st 9 holes is part of the reason for the bunching and waiting on the tees.
The 10th green, a proper MacKenzie green looked magnificent, surrounded by fern covered banking. We could not play this as it was being relaid but the setting was visually excellent. Then you get what for me is too busy a section. The 11th tee is off to the left but you are teeing back to the right, where a stray tee shot can either land on the 12th green or hit someone on the 10th fairway. the hole itself is nice and your second shot is over another part of a quarry to a green which is protected by bunkers and slopes back to front. The 12th then plays back alongside the 11th on the valley side. It is the last of the par 3's and at 188 yards requires a straight and accurate shot otherwise your ball could find itself down the hillside on the 7th fairway.
The course then stretches away with the 13th playing to what again looks a wonderful green complex, one of the smaller greens on the course tucked away in a dell.
The 14th is another downhill shot to a wide fairway and the river on the left, which in all honesty should not come into play, before the last of the par 5's. Similar to the 8th it plays up over a hill onto a plateau. at only 477 yards this is a real birdie chance, or better.
Then you get to see some real old school design. As the river bends back and forth, the 16th plays down from a high tee to a dog leg right hole which is surrounded by the river on all sides. The trees have been cleared. It's not a long hole so there is no need to take the aggressive line and cut the corner. Play to the centre of the fairway and a short wedge to the green. You then have to walk 200 yards back up the 16th as people tee down it, to get to the 17th tee, which criss crosses the 16th as you play back alongside the river the other way. All bait crazy and no doubt some will love it and MacKenzie clearly was making best use of the land available, but like many other parts of the course, it was simply too busy.
In isolation the 17th would probably be my favourite hole as the river hugs the left side, the hillside flanks the right and the green is tucked away at the bottom of the hillside in a beautiful setting.
Finally you cross back over the river (you crossed it to get to the 7th) and play the 18th. A straight tee shot takes you to the bottom of the hill you came down on the 6th and you have to club up to reach the green which is high above you and a c130 shot. A different finishing hole indeed.
In scoring this course I have found this difficult. No doubt the Master built 100+ years ago a wonderful golf course on this moorland property, and did wonders with the space available to him. For me the 1st 5 holes are too crammed and on relatively uninteresting terrain, the best part is certainly along the river (holes 7, 16 and 17), but the business and small space for 5 holes/fairways in the middle section left me unimpressed, and ducking for cover on far too many occasions. The pace of play was slow and whilst members were very friendly, that would not be enough for me to come back and try it say in the Summer months.
I'm sure as many reviewers have scored higher, others will disagree, but compared to the top courses I play in each county, the fact this is the 11th best in Cheshire surprises me. I have only played Dunham Forest below this in Cheshire but would rank it higher. This was a 2 half ball rating but as there are a few noteworthy holes I have scored 3.
Reddish first came to my attention many years ago in a book called 'Britain's most extraordinary golf holes' where it's 18th was featured. I finally got round to playing it in 2020. There's plenty of clubs to choose from in the area to the South of Manchester and while I think this is one of the better ones, I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other reviewers.
The first 5 are on the same level as the clubhouse and feel a little crammed in but are still good. Par 3 4th has trouble everywhere and is an intimidating tee shot. At the 6th you come to a huge drop par 3 into the valley and these holes near the river were my favourites, 6, 7, 16 & 17.
The 13th is worth a mention also, a long par 4 where the second shot has to go over a big ridge to a small hidden green with a big hollow next to it and a pond not far away. I walked off thinking it was one of the hardest par 4's I've played. Well done to anyone who makes a par there.
Reddish Vale is a really good golf course, with fine turf, good greens, some very challenging shots and a great variety of holes. Once you tee off you have no idea that you are so close to a major and expanding city. The first five holes play on the clubhouse level, including the very enjoyable first with a chasm to avoid, before a heroic tee shot on the downhill 6th followed by holes on the river level finishing with a strongly uphill approach to the 18th green. The river certainly was in play on some holes for our group this week ! One needs to be driving well to bring the par 5's into range which still have very challenging approach shots, and the par 3's require precision whilst still having gathering areas to aim at. Highly recommended, and a very friendly clubhouse with good food reflecting a quality, value place for a game of golf.
The golf course at Reddish Vale is one I would advise anybody to play. Not only is it one of the best value venues in the North West it is also one of the most interesting and entertaining.
Exciting terrain, great turf and some magnificent green locations place this course a clear level above most of its many neighbours in the Manchester suburbs and produces a round of golf that has several thrills and spills along the way.
The yardage is a modest 6,086 but the par of 69 has an SSS of 70 and with lots of natural hazards, including the River Tame, it is certainly no pushover. But a round here, on a course that lies third in seniority of all those built by the great Dr. Alister Mackenzie behind only Alwoodley and Moortown, is not so much about the score but the value of shots that must be played.
In particular the approaches into the greens are of a very high quality. All five of the short holes ask the golfer a different question. The second hole must be played over a ravine to a massive green whilst the penalty for missing the fourth to the left and the 12th to the right are severe. The 240-yard sixth is the longest of the quintet and drops 70-feet but the shortest, the fantastic 137-yard ninth, climbs to a green that feeds in from the right. As a collection they are nothing short of excellent.
Like many courses I see nowadays the amount of trees, overgrowth and vegetation at Reddish Vale kills a lot of the strategy and playability. The river that winds through the course is virtually hidden from sight and this takes away from much of the drama that could be had. Holes such as the sixth, seventh, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th are not nearly as intimidating, nor thought-provoking, as they could be, and probably were a century ago.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.